Jameela Jamil is an outspoken feminist—she got Avon to pull a series of body-shaming ads, she refuses to be airbrushed, and she launched a body-positive organization called I Weigh that’s inspired thousands of women to celebrate what they truly “weigh,” aka all the things that make them unique. But Jamil doesn’t claim the feminist label easily. In fact, she calls herself a “feminist-in-progress,” a moniker appears in her Twitter and Instagram bios.
At the recent BlogHer Health conference in Los Angeles, where Jamil received a Voices of the Year award and spoke about how and why body-shaming needs to end, like, now, HelloGiggles asked about the “feminist-in-progress” label.
“I think we are all feminists-in-progress,” she said. “I believe that we don’t all have all of the answers, and I think that there’s a great power in admitting to that, because then you create space for yourself to grow, and to learn, and to change. I’m someone who didn’t understand feminism; I didn’t even know the term intersectional feminism, I think because I just thought, ‘Well, I love all people, so therefore I am an intersectional feminist.’ But my feminism wasn’t specifically targeting and helping and elevating cultures that weren’t mine. I was focusing on the plight of brown women, and therefore ignoring the plight of black women or women with disabilities or women who are deaf, or blind, or trans.”
Jamil, who has faced body-shaming throughout her career and was bullied as a child, has been called out in the past for being “too thin” to be a diet-culture activist, and for seeming out of touch with today’s body-positivity movement. But she takes it all in stride. For her, “feminist-in-progress” is a way to embrace her ignorance and create space for everyone to make mistakes and grow from them.
“I think feminist-in-progress is a term I use that rallies against cancel culture, which I don’t think is helpful because then you never give someone a chance to evolve—and fair enough, I understand that not everyone deserves a chance necessarily—but I think if someone genuinely wants to learn and grow, you shouldn’t always hold their old mistakes against them,” she told us. “I think we could try, at least, to rehabilitate people and give them a chance to go away and learn and read and watch things that will illuminate them.”
She also explained that she doesn’t like the “woke-bashing” that goes on in some progressive circles, where someone who thinks they are (and wants to be) progressive is shamed for what they don’t know. “I feel like it’s a way that the left in-fight and we sort of eat each other, and then the right continue to win and grow because they all stick together.”
To help move the conversation forward and share her journey with her fans, she often shares what she’s reading and consuming on social media, and also calls out the activists she loves to highlight the people who are inspiring and educating her.
“I try to evolve and engage other people in my journey,” she said, “so that we can all grow together, rather than come at it with an ego.”